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Beaker People or Culture?

When Jacquetta Hawkes wrote "The Archaeology of the Channel Islands", she mentioned "the Beaker people" who spread across Europe, possibly from the Iberian peninsular. They were defined by a distinctive pottery style - a beaker with a distinctive bell-shaped profile - that spreads across the Western continent around 2000 B.C. Burial customs of the Beaker people included placing their dead in round barrows, often with a beaker, perhaps to hold a drink for the dead on their final journey. Evidence of such beakers and artifacts have been found in Jersey at Ville es Noueaux.

The existence of the migratory "Beaker people" is still very much the popular position. Richard R. Doornek writing in the magazine "School Arts" in 1989 on Stonehenge mentions that about 2100 BC, "the Beaker people, named after their highly sophisticated pottery, arrived in Britain from the Continent through the Low Countries. Geoffrey Humphrys also writes on Stonehenge in the magazine "Contemporary Review" (1994), and again we hear that "about 2100 BC, the Beaker people are reckoned to have started erecting two circles of bluestones".

But many historians and archaeologists now believe that the Beaker people did not exist as a group; as Mark Patton explains, the beakers and related artefacts that are attributed to the Beaker people may well indicate the migration of a "beaker culture" rather than a "beaker people". This is most succinctly summed up by Ronald Hutton:

"One of the major developments in British archaeology during the past twenty years has been the loss of confidence by its practitioners in their ability to recognise the movement of peoples. The problem is that an exiting population can adopt foreign artefacts and fashions so completely as to appear to have been replaced by foreigners. Thus, according to traditional archaeological practice, had modern Britain been an illiterate society then it would have been natural to have spoken of the invasion of the 'Washing Machine People' in the 1950s and large-scale Japanese immigration in the 1970s."


The Archaeology of Jersey, Jacquetta Hawkes, 1939

The Prehistoric Foundations of Europe to the Mycenean Age, 1940, C. F. C. Hawkes -

The Beginning of History, by Jacquetta Hawkes, ANTIQUITY 20 no. 78, June 1946

Stonehenge, in School Arts, . Volume: 88. Issue: 5, 1989, Richard R. Doornek

Stonehenge - June's Flashpoint, in Contemporary Review. Volume: 264. Issue: 1541, 1994 by Geoffrey Humphrys.

Jersey in Prehistory, Mark Patton, 1987

The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles; Their Nature and Legacy by Ronald Hutton, 1991.